This isn’t right.
The lab report in my hand is as clear as day, and its conclusions unmistakeable, but it can’t be right. I ve read it at least ten times now, scanning the page over and over again, looking for any sign of hope, any hint that the samples got mixed up or were contaminated in the lab. Yet every time the information remains the same. Beneath columns full of DNA markers I cannot even begin to understand, read the d*****g words:
Probability of Paternity: 0%
I don’t believe it. She has to be mine.
Selene, who turned pale and ashen the moment my mother revealed the envelope, squeezes the pup in her arms a little tighter. I can’t see Lila’s face, but I can hear the delicate wafts of her breath as she slum bers in her mother’s arms, completely oblivious to the disaster unfolding around her.
Selene furrows her dark brows and pouts her full lips, her beautiful face sullen and wary in equal mea sure. My stomach is in my throat, and the room around me is spinning out of control. She was telling the truth. I think simply, unable to process any more complex feelings than shock and pain.
I’d been so sure. I felt connected to Lila from the moment I saw her, and we bonded almost instantly. That has to mean something, doesn’t it? Surely I would not feel so possessive of another wolf’s child.
I suppose it might simply be the fact that she’s my mate’s daughter; after all, how could I not feel drawn to a pup who has so much of Selene in her? Maybe my mother was right, and I just wanted to be Lila’ s father. Maybe I didn’t want to believe my mate had truly chosen another wolf over me.
But she did. Selene chose Drake Cavanaugh’s pack over mine. She chose him for her protector; she chose him to father her pup.
Axel is howling mournfully in my head as I finally lower the paper. Every eye in the room is on me, and I realize they’re waiting for me to say something. “She isn’t mine,” I repeat, dropping the test results onto the side table. “The DNA wasn’t a match.”
Shockwaves reverberate through the room, surprised and disappointed faces mingling with those of re lief and triumph – but all remain silent. Axel is anything but. Howling has turned to ranting and raging, de crying the results with savage snarls and vicious growls. My head is so full of his fury I almost forget where I am.
A pair of cerulean and lilac eyes glow through the haze of blurry bodies and unfocused faces filling the ::. room: beloved, ethereal and far too painful to look at now that I know the truth.
“I told you so.” Selene tells me with an odd catch in her voice. “More than once. It’s your own fault for not believing me.” My mate’s cold words slice me straight to the core. I assumed she was so upset about the test because she thought her lie would be revealed. Now I realize she was simply afraid of how I would react to learning Drake really is Lila’s father.
She was right to be afraid.
Her voice set off my wolf even further, and he claws at the surface of my skin, desperate to get out. I’m not sure if I want to kill Drake or claim Selene. Frankly, I like the sound of both options. Of course, who’s to say I need to limit myself to one? Every instinct I possess is urging me to defend what’s mine, and Axel is positively rabid with the need to attack – whether in violence or passion.
My mother is looking at me with sympathy and concern. Unless I’m mistaken, she’s upset by the re sults too, but she can also see that I’m in very serious danger of losing control. “Bastien?” She asks hesi
tantly. “Are you alight?”
My shoulders rise and fall with the force of my shallow, seething breaths, punctuating the violent pounding of my heart. I know I’m barreling towards doing something I’ll regret, but even if I could stop my self, I don’t want to.
I’m done trying to be good, I’m done trying to be worthy of a woman who betrayed me. I’m ‘an Alpha, not some feeble Omega. It’s my job to lead and protect at all costs, to dominate and control, not coddle and pacify.
Aiden can sense the feral energy rolling off my body like a dark storm. “You need to pull back brother.” He says, adding through our link, Don’t forget, there’s a pup in the room.
The red haze blinding me thins for a moment, parting like fog before billowing back. It ebbs just enough for Aiden’s words to filter through to Axel, and together we try to force down the bloodlust consum ing us. Clenching and unclenching my fists, I will my pulse to slow. I can’t give in to my instincts with Lila here, no matter how entitled I’d be to do so.
I’m beginning to realize this was never going to turn out well. Whether my mate lied and stole my child, or bore one with another wolf, I was always going to lose. It’s a reminder of everything that’s wrong be tween us, further proof of how little I truly know Selene.
Selene had loved me, hadn’t she?
Had I imagined it all?
Was our entire relationship a fantasy I created in my mind?
I can’t believe it was all a lie. The night Selene shifted, she admitted how deeply she cared. She’d been out of her mind with pain, but almost seemed more devastated by the idea I’d rejected her. How many times has she told me that I had my chance, that I’d wasted it?
But if she truly loved me so much, how could she take another mate so quickly? How could she be hap py when I was in the depths of despair, barely surviving the heartbreak of losing her.
“Why?” I demand, pouring all my confusion and grief into the words. “Why did you do it?”
“You know why, Bastien.” Selene answers with exasperation. “It was never going to work between us.”
“We were happy.”| argue, trying to understand.
“No, we weren’t!” She exclaims. “Not at the same time at least.” My mate sighs, appearing to grapple for patience. “We were doomed from the beginning.” Do I imagine the pain in her voice? “A marriage can’t be built on pity and obligation. I couldn’t give you what you wanted, and you couldn’t give me what I need ed. That’s not either of our faults, it’s just the way it is.”
“You gave me everything I ever wanted and more.” | profess fiercely, blocking out our audience so that I can speak to Selene, and Selene alone. “How can you think otherwise?”
“Because you made me think it!” She half whispers, half shouts. “You married me out of duty, you stayed with me out of duty. Whatever feelings that might have developed along the way don’t change the fact that we started out on false pretenses.
I want to scream that there were never any false pretenses in our relationship, but before I can open my mouth, Drake Cavanaugh steps forward.
“Enough, Bastien.” He crosses the room to stand beside Selene, “you can go around in circles arguing these things all day.” He declares, putting an arm around her shoulders, “But that won’t change the past.”
I knew from the beginning that Drake had feelings for Selene, I could see it in his eyes the first time ! ever saw them together. However, it was one thing when the feelings went one way. It’s another to see Se lene return them. Seeing Drake with my mate and the pup which should be mine, is enough to make me want to kill the young Alpha, and the desire only increases as he continues to speak on Selene’s behalf.
“You had your chance. You lost it.” He sneers.
‘This doesn’t concern you, Cavanaugh.” I hiss.
“It does.” Cavanaugh snaps. “As it involves my mate and my pup.”
My claws and fangs extend, the anger I’ve so recently mastered exploding once more.
“You came.” Drake continues. “You warned us about the bounty and now we‘re prepared to face the threat.” His emerald eyes sparkle cruelly. “We‘re grateful – truly, we are.” He drawls, “But there’s no place for you here beyond that.”
“Is that how you feel too?” I ask Selene.
She frowns, swaying on the spot as she rocks Lila and eyes me cautiously. “Yes.” She finally murmurs. “I just want to be free Bastien. To live my life as I wish. I don’t want to be tied to the past or spend my days dwelling on things I can’t change.”
At that moment, Axel roars so loudly I know I have to leave. If I stay one minute longer I’m going to at tack, and whatever else might happen between us, I can’t let that happen.
Certain I’m going to shift before the minute is out, I betray my every instinct, and walk away from my mate. I take off at a run, fleeing before I can retaliate against Drake – and disappearing into the night.